Ten Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian
Most individuals with an animal companion never consider that they have the right to interview their veterinarian. However, as caring stewards of our precious life companions, we are not only responsible for their care but are also entitled to the best advice. Therefore, we should strive for clarity in communication so that we are comfortable with the person who is evaluating our companion’s health.
What animals do you have?
If there is not an emergency, you have the time to do interviewing during a routine appointment with a new vet. Ask questions such as: what kind of animals do you have, are you a cat or a dog person, and where did you attend veterinary college? Everyone likes others who care about animals so finding a common bond (even with a trusted family vet) by talking about life companions is a good place to start. If a vet does not have any pets or expresses a dislike of animals, move on.
How is my pet’s weight?
Look down on your pet from above and notice if there is a waistline between the rib cage and the hips. Loss of waistline usually means weight gain. Vets sometimes neglect to cover nutrition fully and often fail to give specific information. Paradoxically, no one can say how many cups of food to give since sizes and metabolic rates vary among animals. Ask for the specific food type and where to find it. Inquire about recipes for homemade diets, whether cooked or raw. Inquire if supplements would help.
What do you feed your animals?
If a homemade diet for a large breed dog is recommended, ask if the vet has cooked for his/her dog and where specifically in your town you can find the ingredients for the diet.
What vaccines do you consider to be “core vaccines”?
Which vaccines are strongly recommended and which are optional? Consider your pet’s risk of contracting the disease and compare it with the risk of vaccinating. There is no vaccine without low risk of anaphylactic reaction.Vaccines do spur the immune system into action, therefore it isn’t a good idea in pets with autoimmune diseases. Inquire about a vaccine titer rather than revaccinating often. These are readily available at all reference labs today with a blood sample.
Please give me all the options for this problem
There are always options. For example, for a lump on the skin, there are three options: measure now and watch for any changes; needle biopsy and cytology, and schedule excision surgery and histopathology. Ask your vet to formulate a helpful and easy to understand plan.
What would you do if this were your pet?
This is a fair question and the better you know your vet, the more comfortable you will be asking it and trusting in their honest opinions. Ask for your vet’s philosophy on surgery, which can range from looking at all cases as potential surgery to “don’t fix it if it isn't broken.”
Can you refer me to a specialist for this problem?
Another opinion is welcomed at times so ask for a referral as well as for alternatives such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy. Someone your vet knows and respects in the profession is likely a better choice and will save you time. If no referral is offered, research these veterinary websites: American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA), American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA), Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH), and American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) for certified veterinary practitioners. Give your conventional vet feedback from your experience.
Is this an autoimmune condition?
How can we better balance the immune system; would acupuncture help? Are there supplements you would recommend, or dietary substances to avoid? Sometimes even a holistic vet gets in a conventional mindset or assumes every client would not be open to unconventional treatments.
How do I know if my animal is in pain?
Pain is not the end. It does, however reduce healing and adversely affect metabolism. Today, vets regularly see animals there are in pain and know of many optional treatments. They recognize and can explain subtle signs of pain such as: rapid pulse rate, failure to get up to eliminate, reduced appetite, dullness of the eyes, lack of interest in surroundings.
Would you write down some of the information?
Most clients remember only fraction of what they hear. Vets tend to go on about subjects too quickly, assuming a client will remember. Get written instructions and then ask for explanations. A vet may use words that are not clear in meaning. Therefore, clear instructions are of significantly important to a successful outcome.
Keep in mind that the vet does not make your animal get better. Although you are paying for advice and medications that have the potential to nudge your animal’s body toward healing, it is ultimately the vital force and innate healing ability of the incredible body, which is responsible for healing.
Communication is the basis for all relationships and both you and your vet will benefit from mutual honesty and clarity.Marjorie M. Lewter, DVM is a member AHVMA and AAVA. For more information call,540-544-6971